Bernard Malamud Revisited: Portrait of the Post-Holocaust Jewish Hero in the Fixer



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MALAMUD AND POSTWAR AMERICA
During postwar years, the United States imperialistic policies caused considerable damages to Americans, and imposed irreparable afflictions to weaker nations, but neither of them could exceed the tragedy that took shape in Vietnam. The one about which Bertrand Russell remarked, There are few parallels with the war in Vietnam (54), and the


Bernard Malamud Revisited Portrait of the Post-Holocaust Jewish Heroin the Fixer
37
war during which United States dropped more than twice as much bombing tonnage. than the total bombing tonnage dropped during World War II (Anderson Between 1954 to 1960, the Eisenhower administration invested over $1.65 billion in the South Vietnam (Farber and Bailey 36) in order to win the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese away from the communists as well as making it one of its own allies. During Kennedy administration (1961-
1963), America grew even more deeply involved in the war. He increased the number of American military advisors in Vietnam from around 900 to more than 16,000, and. spent another billion dollars during his presidency (Farber and Bailey 37). The consequence of this escalation is manifest in the following shocking statistics:
By mid over 5,000,000 people had been put in camps designated as concentration camps and. by late 1962 as many as 45,000 students alone were kept in South Vietnam’s concentration camps. 160,000 dead by mid 700,000 tortured and maimed 400,000 imprisoned 31,000 raped 3,000 disembowelled with livers cutout while alive 4,000 burned alive 1,000 temples destroyed 46 villages attacked with poisonous chemicals. (Russell After Kennedy’s assassination, Lyndon Johnson entered the White House, and remained faithful to his predecessors policy of containment. It was in his administration (1963-
1968) that America waged a full-scale front-line war in Vietnam. He greatly escalated US. military involvement, and increased the number of American soldiers to 550,000 by 1968 (Farber and Bailey One of the responsibilities of a committed universal writer is to be concerned about the pains of the people of the world as well as his/her society. Vietnam War was one of the most obvious examples of injustice in Malamud’s time which led to the formation of another humanitarian trend along with civil rights movement. Encompassing political, racial, and cultural spheres, the antiwar movement exposed a deep schism within s American society (Barringer 53) that began in 1965 and involved America until the war ended in 1973 (Anderson During this time, many well-known figures from various fields spoke and penned for or against this war. Some, however, preferred to remain silent. About this silence Martin Luther King remarked, the greatest tragedy of this period. was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people (196). Malamud was among the latter group. One instance of this is when Writers and Editors War Tax Protest was organized. About
528 writers and editors, including James Baldwin, Noam Chomsky, Henry Miller, Thomas Pynchon, William Styron, Allen Ginsberg, Tillie Olsen, Grace Paley, Susan Sontag, and Norman Mailer (the last five were Jewish, pledged to refuse to pay the 10% Vietnam War tax surcharge (History of War Tax Resistance, but Malamud did not get involved. Another opportunity to show concern for the Vietnamese as a public actor was related to an orchestrated boycott. At a National Book Awards ceremony Bernard Malamud accepted his award gratefully and thus cancelled out the boycott which had been seemingly organized by Mailer
(MacGowan In contrast to Malamud, Mailer can be judged both as an American and a universal writer who had fictions relevant to the turbulent society of America and the people of Vietnam. Mailer, too, was a Jew, but there was an apparent lack of interest in Jewishness in him (Brauner 97). Mailer did not see himself as committed merely to the concerns of an ethnic group. Although he wrote two novels Why Are Wei iin Vietnam? (1967) and The Armies of the Night (1968) directly engaged in the political and social question of his day, Mailer records that he became involved in the weekend of protests – he would be arrested and spent a night in prison
– because he was unable to convince himself that his fiction writing was sufficient response to the war in Vietnam
(MacGowan Ina letter to a friend Malamud gives away his idea about the relationship between the art and universal injustice like the Vietnam War The Vietnam thing has me bothered. but I confess I take a dim view that artists can be directly effective. Perhaps they can be as people. but one’s work can’t be directed to that end. Once you do that there’s no art (qtd. in Smith 221-22). As you see, Malamud believed that art should not be involved in social and political issues like the Vietnam War. In the next part, we will see if he did not direct his art to the alleged Holocaust either.


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